Henrikh Mkhitaryan has played a key role in helping Arsenal secure a place in the Europa League final — but all of those efforts count for nothing when politics gets in the way. And that is certainly the case with the news that the winger will miss the final against Premier League rivals Chelsea in Baku, Azerbaijan, later this month.
The Gunners have issued a statement confirming that the player will not be part of boss Unai Emery’s squad for the game against the Blues. The issue is the latest to impact the governing body UEFA after it was revealed that both Arsenal and Chelsea fans are struggling to arrange affordable transport to the game. Both clubs are set to send tickets back to UEFA from their 6,000 allocation.
The latest blow has come about because Mkhitaryan is captain of Armenia and there is still political unrest between his native country and Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh area. So, despite being assured by UEFA that he would be safe during his visit with the Gunners, Mkhitaryan won’t now feature in the May 29 showdown.
An Arsenal statement said:
“We have thoroughly explored all the options for Micki to be part of the squad but after discussing this with Micki and his family we have collectively agreed he will not be in our travelling party.
“We have written to UEFA expressing our deep concerns about this situation. Micki has been a key player in our run to the final so this is a big loss for us from a team perspective.
“We’re also very sad that a player will miss out on a major European final in circumstances such as this, as it is something that comes along very rarely in a footballer’s career. Micki will continue to be part of our preparations until we depart for Baku at the weekend.”
Mkhitaryan took to his Instagram feed to add:
“Having considered all the current options, we had to take the tough decision for me not to travel with the squad to the Europa League final. It is the kind of game that doesn’t come along very often for us players and I must admit, it hurts me a lot to miss it. I will be cheering my teammates on! Let us bring it home.”
Meanwhile, Arsenal managing director Vinai Venkatesham says the club will recruit efficiently in the summer rather than splash the cash.
He told the club’s official website:
“We need to continue to look at our wage bill. We’ve got, and it’s well known, a large wage bill — and that’s a good thing. That demonstrates the financial power and the financial muscle of Arsenal, which is important for us to be successful.
“But we need to make sure we are spending that money as efficiently as possible, and we are spending a lot of time focusing on that. Of course we need to be sensible and we need to be efficient in the transfer window.
“We need to sign excellent players, we need to make sure those players can make a real contribution. And if I look back to the last transfer window, with Bernd Leno, Matteo Guendouzi, Lucas Torreira, Papa Sokratis and others, we think we bring in players that can make a really big impact.
“And we believe that those players, and many more, can make a bigger impact next season. We need to be sure that when we are selling players we are maximising the funds that we can get when we sell players, because all of those funds just get reinvested back into the team.”